Published Saturday, June 6, 2020 1:41PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 26, 2020 9:23AM EDT
But, as restaurants across the country adjust to the realities of operating during a pandemic, patio-goers will be greeted with an entirely different experience -- one that involves reduced service, physical distancing, and questions about the logistics of enjoying a cold pint while wearing a face mask.
But is it safe to do so?
Jeffrey Farber, a professor of food microbiology at the University of Guelph, says while there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus in an outdoor patio setting, it may be safer than sitting down for a meal inside a restaurant.
“In indoor spaces, there is much more opportunity [for transmission] … having that closed space where the virus can easily transmit between people,” Farber told CTVNews.ca by phone Saturday.
“Outside, let’s say if someone coughs, you’d have very good air flow, so the possibility for transmission from one person to the next would be minimal.”
Farber points to a study by Chinese researchers which looked at a case of transmission at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China in January.
An asymptomatic diner seated in the middle of the restaurant appeared to spread the virus to nine other people in the space. Though the study had several limitations, researchers suggested that the restaurants air conditioner spread the virus particles around the dining room.
The study led several public health authorities, including Ontario Public Health, to investigate the role airflow plays in transmission of the disease, leading to recommendations of physical distancing of dining tables and improved ventilation of indoor spaces.
But Farber says the summer season highlights the importance of restaurants moving their services outside during the pandemic.
Some provinces, including Alberta, have already allowed restaurants to open at 50 per cent capacity and expand their patios, and similar recommendations are expected for restaurants in other provinces.
“I do think it’s safe, if it’s done properly,” said Farber, noting there are many adjustments restaurants and patrons will have to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ontario opened its patios to the public on June 12, with the exception of Toronto and a few other areas around the U.S. border, which will open on June 24.
In Quebec, restaurants were allowed to open on June 15, with the exception of Montreal which opened on June 22.